Born in California but raised in Madison, WI, Nelson began playing music when she was a student at the University of Wisconsin. Nelson began singing folk and blues at coffeehouses and R&B and rock & roll at parties with a covers band called the Fabulous Imitators. In 1964, she recorded an album for Prestige, Deep Are the Roots, which was produced by Sam Charters. Two years after recording Deep Are the Roots, Nelson headed out to the West Coast, spending some time in Los Angeles before settling in San Francisco. After arriving in San Francisco, she formed Mother Earth in 1968, moving the group to Nashville the following year. The band stayed together for five years, recording several albums for Mercury Records, among a handful of other labels. Nelson left the band in the mid-'70s, embarking on a solo career that saw her release albums for a variety of labels, including Columbia, Atlantic, and Flying Fish.
Nelson continued to record and perform into the '90s. In 1993, she released In the Here and Now, her first album for Rounder Records and, not coincidentally, her first straight blues record since she began recording in the '60s. Nelson followed In the Here and Now with several acclaimed records of gritty blues-rock for Rounder, switching to Memphis International for the release of You'll Never Be a Stranger at My Door in 2007. ~ Ron Wynn & Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi